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Will Erdogan bring down the “crucial” round of Cyprus peace talks?

Talks to reunite the two sides of Cyprus are set to resume in Geneva on Monday. The Mediterranean island and EU member state has been separated since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the North of the state island and kept it under occupation ever since.

A new phase in the efforts to reunify the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus is set to resume Monday. The talks are to take place in Geneva and include an envoy from the UN.

Newly appointed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week called the talks “a historical occasion” following decades of previously failed negotiations.

The UN special envoy to Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, will also be presiding over the talks, as well as representatives of the EU and UN Security Council. Eide described the upcoming summit as “a crucial week” for reunification.

 The UN is placing great hopes on the new round of talks. Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who have met many times before and shared a meal in Calvino Sunday, both spoke with Guterres on Sunday. Anastasiades said on Twitter he was traveling to Geneva with “hope, confidence and unity for the future of Cyprus.”
Akinci previously expressed “cautious optimism” heading into talks, which are scheduled to last until Wednesday. The negotiations are expected to cover six broad areas:
  • EU-related issues
  • governance and division of power
  • land and economic issues
  • territory
  • security.

Deutsche Welle notes that the previous UN-supported talks round in 2004 – Annan Plan – “failed after Greek Cypriots, who did not trust Turkey at the time, refused to back down from demands calling for tens of thousands of Turkish troops to be removed from the Turkish-majority area of the island which declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. The breakaway entity, however, is only recognized by Turkey.”

A crucial point for the talks in 2004 was that Greek Cypriots rejected at 76% the Annan Plan in a referendum.

A new UN-backed initiative brought the two Cypriot leaders together in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland in November 2016. However, talks between President  Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci deadlocked  after two days on the issue of territory.

A statement from the UN said the leaders had been engaged in serious and sustained negotiations over the last two days in Mont Pelerin.

“Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks,” the statement said. “The two sides have decided to return to Cyprus and reflect on the way forward.”

Cypriot media reported that “the two sides had not reached convergence on the number of refugees to return, and by extension the percentage of territory for each constituent state, and also that the issue of coastlines had not been discussed substantially.”

It should be recalled that Anastasiades and Greece had a joint approach on the issue arguing that the external aspects of the Cyprus problem (security, guarantees, withdrawal of Turkish troops) should not be discussed before successfully concluding negotiations on the internal aspects. However, on December 1st, the Cypriot President decided to break away from the joint Athens-Nicosia line and accepted to meet again with Akinci before the set conditions were met.

Negotiations between Anastasiades – Akinci on the internal aspect of the Cyprus issue will be held January 9-11.

On January 12th, for the first time the guarantee powers Greece, Turkey and the UK will also sit at the negotiations table. This is something Ankara always wanted but was rejected by Athens and Nicosia.

Greece seems to have “swallowed” Anastasiades’ autonomous move, however, Turkey keeps having the last saying on the Cyprus issue.

At the current state of politics in Turkey, hardly anyone would believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would make a good will move or proceed to any concession in the Cyprus issue.

Being under political pressure due to the July 15th failed coup attempt and the terrorism attacks by members of the Islamic state and Kurdish militants, Erdogan needs to consolidate power at home and prove himself as a nationalist leader who defends only the best interests of his country. Furthermore, as relations between Turkey and the EU are at the lowest point and accession talks have been practically frozen, Erdogan would not need to make any good will move towards Brussels.

Ever since he came into power end of 2003, Erdogan has been insisting on a Federation in Cyprus in which Turkish Cypriots have equal rights and Turkey keeps its right as guarantee power. But here it needs to be added that Turkey has a state policy on Cyprus, independently of which party is in power.

Will President Anastasiades accept to sacrifice the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus for a federal state?

Athens keeps a low profile on the issue and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has invited political leaders to brief them on the new round of negotiations.

As for Teresa May… she might push for a solution and secure a great diplomatic success ahead of the Brexit. But who cares about UK as guarantee power on Cyprus?

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4 comments

  1. Giaourti Giaourtaki

    Guess May must represent the 8000 British pensioners who illegally have bought Greek land and houses from the North

    • British politicians couldn’t give a **ck about their citizens. The only thing that interests them is money: the entire UK is now obsessed with money and has no interest in anything else, apart from gossip.

  2. Don’t worry about anything. The great patriot Alex will simply execute whatever his boss, Angela, tells him. No need for speculation therefore.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      that’s unfair. GR doesn’t have much to say on Cyrpus issue. it’s CY, TR, N?CY and then GR. – 4th violin so to say